BOOK REVIEW: APRIL 2016

Title: Maximum Interval Training
Authors: John Cissik & Jay Dawes
Publisher: Human Kinetics Australia, ISBN-13: 9781492500230
Details: Paperback, 351pp
RRP: $35.95 OR $26.97 for Network Members who have joined the Human Kinetics Rewards program HERE and use the promo code NETWORK16 at checkout.

Review by Peter Lawler

American author John Cissik is a long-time friend of the ATFCA (Australian Track & Field Coaches Association). He has been a constant contributor to Modern Athlete and Coach and a presenter at the 2013 Congress on the Gold Coast. Further, he has written ten books including Strength Training for Track and Field which was published in 2003. Currently, John is the owner of Human Performance Services which services professional athletes for their strength needs. As well as the elite level, John works extensively with children with special needs, which is commendable. Jay Dawes is employed in the Health Services Department of the University of Colorado. His PhD focused on the link between health and human performance.

Maximum Interval Training (MIT) is also known as High Intensity Training (HIT). Let no confusion prevail. One can argue cogently about the term ‘interval.’ To be specific, interval training is controlled training. For a runner, it encompasses a set distance in a set time with a set recovery. Both MIT and HIT utilise high intensity exercise for the duration of 20 to 60 seconds before an extended rest for recovery. In a single word it is THRASH! To discuss the term ‘interval’ any further would be pedantic...

What this new, very thick, book does is provide a diverse array of exercise mediums to avert boredom induced by sameness of exercise, equipment and training systems. Chapter 3 is titled ‘Bodyweight Training’, which has been sadly undervalued for far too long. This is a helpful chapter, BUT – it’s format time! Every exercise is illustrated (some by sequence) and demonstrated by competent models with an explanatory script which describes the progressive steps for each. There are five steps for every exercise: Firstly, what is the intention of the exercise? What are the pre-requisites? Steps to completion? What variations if any? What are the key points to consider while using the exercise? Part II of MIT is an exercise haven, a land of plenty for wallowing athletes thrashing in earnest endeavour.

Maximum Interval Training uses seven items of equipment for its seven chapters. The secret seven are: Bodyweight exercises, sprinting, medicine balls, heavy ropes, suspension training, kettlebells and sandbags. Each chapter contains a ‘split’. Prior to undertaking advanced demanding exercises, the authors have included ‘foundational’ exercises which are well graded conditioners for the transition to the challenge to come. Essentially, whether your purpose is MIT or HIT or HIIT or something more sedate, these seven chapters are a comprehensive collection of what exercises can be done. The pythonesque heavy rope chapter has twenty activities but none with a lasso! The suspension chapter (now known as TRX) about flat cables suspended from the roof with handles to accommodate the hands or the feet, (a fabulous piece of equipment) also has twenty activities, and so it goes... Actually, there is one final chapter to conclude Part II, ‘Alternative Training Formats’. This is a composite construction that identifies rubber resistance bands, water filled stability balls, weighted sleds so loved by CrossFit, heavy boxing bags to punch or carry or both. Is there anything left to use?

The avalanche of exercises finally subsides. Part III, ‘Testing Considerations and Variables’ contains five chapters that focus on testing protocols, interpretation of the results, setting of programs based on the results and using periodisation to enhance future performance. Movement is tested by simple non-weight bearing tests such as squatting, lunging, short sprints, agility jagged runs while power is measured by vertical and horizontal jumps. Strength tests are based on classic lifts – e.g. dead lift, chin ups, bench press, back squats and more. Chapter 13 is one of the strong ones. ‘Interpreting Results’ links the results to normative charts for qualitative evaluation. From these comparisons, athlete and coach can identify both strengths to maintain and weaknesses to rectify. The remaining chapters of Part III continue to carry the strength. Impressive muscle mass here!

The authors could never be accused of dazzling the reader with obscure science. The text is austere with clear vision. Part IV completes the cycle. Given the hundreds of exercises/activities accrued in this text, the authors finally adapt what is available to produce uber-detailed programs for strength and power, speed and endurance, quickness and agility. There are more programs here than you will find in your weekly TV Guide.

Maximal Interval Training is quite an accomplishment. Many books reviewed for strength and conditioning focus on a single training motif. John Cissik and Co have created a compendium that is all inclusive and overtly thorough.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.